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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spartacus : Andy Whitfield

I am not into TV Serials. I did see a couple of lovely SciFi ones (like V, Star Trek, The X Files), maybe a couple of Historic pieces (especially The Borgias — about a bunch of people in whom I was very interested: They dominated the Church for years).

It must be admitted that I will see almost anything - from Movies to TV Serials to Documentaries - that has Aaron Sorkin's name on it: The West Wing remains an absolute favourite!

Usually I see the Serials when the whole project is over and all the Seasons have been screened. Can't wait for weeks to see it happening in real time! Then I go out and buy the DVD. Often I Download it, for it's great to watch it on my Apple TV. But watching it late does mean I miss out on a lot of stuff about actors or others involved when its actually happening.

Recently I decided to watch 'Spartacus', a Four-Part TV Serial. The main reason was that I loved Howard Fast's original novel and had adored the 1960 epic 'Spartacus' film that was directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick

The movie had won 4 Academy Awards. It became the biggest moneymaker in Universal Studios' history at the time. There was also a Comic Book from Dell after the movie had become a household word and children loved it.

In case you haven't seen it, yet, the film starred Kirk Douglas, as rebellious slave Spartacus, and Laurence Olivier as his foe, Crassus. Also starring: Peter Ustinov (he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in his role as Batiatus), John Gavin (Julius Caesar), Jean Simmons (Varinia), Tony Curtis (Antonionus), and the always amazing Charles Laughton (Grachhus).

Dalton Trumbo was blacklisted at the time as one of the 'Hollywood Ten' but Kirk Douglas announced that Trumbo was the screenwriter. (Trumbo also wrote the screenplay for Exodus under a different name. Sixty years after the event it was also announced that he had written the screenplay for the "Audrey Hepburn - Gregory Peck" classic, Roman Holiday.)

Dalton Trumbo and his wife Cleo

Howard Fast was also blacklisted when he came out of jail: The McCarthy Era had banned him along with several other authors for numerous reasons. Fast had to self-publish 'Spartacus' … and it went through seven printings in the first four months of publication!

Howard Fast

The banning caused a lot of people picketing the entrance to this movie. However, President John F. Kennedy crossed these picket lines to see the film, and helped to end the infamous and stupid blacklisting.

Get the film. It's available on DVD now.

Let me get back to the present: I must warn any of you, if you decide to see the TV serial, you can't have your children or your parents in the room. And I am not saying this because it's a Gladiator movie and tremendous amounts of blood, quite naturally, turns your screen completely red!

The actual reason is that its full of sex. Not just intimations of sex, mind you, but real soft-porn sex happening all the time, everywhere. There are titties galore in almost all scenes, as are cocks. The sex is not between husbands and wives or an occasional friend, but with slaves, too. Whenever you want it. There are sex scenes happening in the background in multiple parts. There is lots of sex outside marriages without the spouse finding out (and, sometimes, with their knowledge). Most of the time it is between genders, but there are lesbian and gay scenes. Sex could be orgiastic, anal, oral, rape, or whatever you can/cannot imagine. 

The image before the Serial starts says this:

Graphic Violence, Adult Content and Viewer Discretion seem like minor words when you see the Serial. And that is not all. The language, too, is not what you'd share, except among some possible friends. Everyone, men and women, say Fuck, Cock, Cunt, Arse, Shit, and Piss. Every few minutes! When the people abuse, or get angry, or are in opposition to their gods, they use the most blasphemous language you can imagine. Not even a chance of what you'd hear in most countries today with people talking about their own God or gods!

Of course, if you can get over all of that, the Serial is really marvellous and teaches us a lot more about history than my teacher taught me at St. Pat's High School :) As for politics, you know that's almost a dirty word today — but it was obviously much worse, then!

Why have I got
Be Here Now
at the beginning of this page?
Let me tell you!

I saw the Prequel pieces and then Season One. Loved it. Spartacus, played by Andy Whitfield, was superb. Then I put on Season Two … and there was a different guy acting as Spartacus. So I went into Google to find out why they couldn't get Andy for the role again … and discovered that Andy Whitfield had died. At 40! With a Cancer that could not be cured! (Many of you know this, I am sure.)

A great actor that Andy turned out to be, he and his wife decided that they'd share his last few months with a photographer and a videographer, who'd record their lives, their love, their children, his friends, the hospital, his terrible pain, his trip to India to find a cure (much like Steve Jobs's decision to look after his cancer with Indian Herbal Medicine and Fruits, which cost him his life). Andy wanted people to see his life - as he 'lived' it - and to learn about the disease. 

Kickstarter decided to put this up for funding. The final film will be released in 2014 when we can see it. In the meantime you can watch the trailer of Be Here Now by the Director, Lillibet Foster. 


When the film finally arrives you will be able to know more about Andy and his death on September 11, 2011, caused by his non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


If you live in a country that thinks it can ban
YouTube (which will soon be back!)
you can go here.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

That was fun …

Click on the image below.
If the picture isn't big enough,
you can 'enlarge' it to see the text.

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Sunday, August 04, 2013

Leonard Alfred Schneider?

October 13, 1925
He was born in Meniola, New York.

Here he is at Bellmore, 1940.

May 8, 1947
Changed his name to Lenny Bruce!

Aaah. So you know him now!

Here he is with his daughter, Kitty

The audience loved him. Writers adored him.
Jazz Musicians were crazy about him.
But the police and some audiences hated him.

He was tried in court for his wonderful performances
- that often hit the religious leaders and the bigots -
and he was jailed at times.

August 3, 1966

Lenny Bruce died of an overdose of Police
(though some say it was Morphine, too!)

Here is a set of his remarkable performances
and more on 6 CDs: 7 hours 30 minutes of him.
The set comes with a great booklet.

Just in case you've never heard him,
here's one of his short pieces:


Also, take a look at his official website.


Here is my cat who was named after him.

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Thursday, August 01, 2013

The five 'pillars' of Islam?

In my childhood I was told that there were FIVE PILLARS in Islam. I had always thought that a building had to have 4 Pillars to stand up and believed that adding the 'fifth' was a peculiar idea. I asked a mulla at a mosque one day, after Eed prayers, and he said (in an approximate conversion from his Urdu), "The fifth makes it doubly strong!"

I suppose that was enough to get a child accepting it for a while. Most of us never read the Qur'an, or did so without any proper translation, so we accepted everything that we were told, anyway.

Until I decided to read it, later. Much later, actually — but still a lot better than most other people that I encounter. Many have very strong beliefs about Islam, some do lots of readings of books on Islam by scholars, but rarely anyone I meet among friends does any real reading of the Qur'an itself! And of those that do, I find many follow one form of meanings from a particular 'School of Thought'. These schools developed years after the book was being read by many people who followed it without the various Tafseers and numerous contradictions that now seem to have spread across the various sects.

The object of this blog post is to try and see if I can find someone who will tell me - in the Comments of this post - when these 5 Rukns became 'popular'. So popular that they are now concerned to be a part of the Religion.

Karen Armstrong suggests that the Prophet gave that command (in her book Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths). Perhaps she is using a piece from Bukhari.
Narrated Ibn Umar that Allah's Apostle said:
“Islam is based on five:
1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah
     - and Muhammad is Allah's Apostle.
2. To offer the prayers dutifully and perfectly.
3. To pay Zakat.
4. To perform Hajj.
5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.”

(Bukhari: Book 2, Hadith 7)
But many people disagree with Bukhari and lots do not follow his (or other) Ahaadees. You can see a few quoted here and believe them, if you think they are right. That's up to you. Anyway, the Quran said Muslims must follow Quran & Sunnah, not Ahadees, so that puts the matter away.

Think of this Verse (7:185) 
about Qur'an and the Ahaadees

فَبِأَيِّ حَدِيثٍ بَعْدَهُ يُؤْمِنُونَ

(After this what Message [Hadees] will they believe in?)
The Prophet went to Hajj just once. He passed away 70 days after returning from Hajj. The Hadeeses shown above (in the Ibn Umar quote plus those on the following link) cannot be the only way for us to get the fact. Is there a Sunnah I am missing?

As far as I am concerned,
there must have been only 4 things that were important:

(There is only one God)
(Mohammad is the Prophet of God)
(the message that God gave to us)
The way that the Prophet did things
(and his followers saw him doing them:
Look at the way Muslims offer their Namaaz!)

Everything in the Qur'an is, obviously, a Rukn. Do's and Don'ts are all to be followed — and altered, sometimes, by way of Ijtehaad. Why would anyone have chosen Muslims to follow just FIVE of those as important?

As I grew up and started looking at all religions, reading their books (in chronological order, where possible), I finally reached the Qur'an and a few Tafseers. Soon I discovered that Muslims had decided to choose Tauheed, Namaaz, Roza, Zakat as four Rukns, since they were compulsory in all circumstances. Four blocks to hold up the building called Islam. But, for some reason, Muslims also added a fifth one: Hajj!
Look at this in or on similar sites.
Question: Is every Muslim required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca?
Answer: Performance of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is required of every adult Muslim, male or female, if physically and financially possible. Many Muslims spend their entire lives saving and planning for this journey; others make the pilgrimage more than once if they are able.The requirements for performing the pilgrimage are as follows: Maturity and sound mind, in order to understand the significance of the pilgrimage experience; Physical capability to travel and perform the pilgrimage rites; Financial stability, free of debt, so that one is able to bear the pilgrimage expenses as well as provide for dependents during travel. For one who meets these criteria, performing the pilgrimage is obligatory.
What I fail to understand is that the first four are something Muslims must do. The fifth one is not really compulsory until you have the funds, have given away any loans that you took, have left sufficient for your life after Hajj, and more.

Most Muslims that I can think of can't put it all together, not counting other difficulties: Travelling from Arabia for Hajj is possible, I suppose; travelling from the sub-continent of Pakistan/India rather difficult; travelling from the really poor African countries: very very difficult; travelling from Australia and from South America much more difficult just for the money it involves.

And that's just the Geography … and the money. Then there's the Immigration Rules that Saudi Arabia puts in, as do many countries from where you decide to go.

At times, the Saudis might also decide that you can't go to Hajj. Remember when an Iranian group had attacked the Ka'ba? The Ka'ba had to be closed for a few days … until God-fearing Zia-ul-Haque (then in the Pakistan Army team training Saudi soldiers) led a team to cleanse the place, killing many Muslims. Iranis were disallowed for a while to perform Hajj under Saudi Laws.

There's always, of course, the Ahmadi issue: Their religion is not written into their Passports (unlike Pakistan) in most countries where they live. So they can go to Hajj by not writing the Ahmadi part. That's only a little white lie to meet their Qur'anic teachings, anyway! I don't know if they do that … but I guess it could be done.

The going to Hajj also brings a slightly different argument: Women!

Obviously it is not the Qur'an that says women can't have their own money  … and since Islam converted people from other faiths it would not have asked the women who had money to give it up, when converting.

We do know that Bibi Khadijah had money and ran a business. I guess some tribes and qabeelahs, allowed this - and so did other faiths. Bibi Khadijah was a Christian when she married the Prophet. She converted to Islam soon after the Prophet told her about Gabriel's visit and she took him to her cousin, a Christian priest, who said the angel's visits were proof since he had seen these visits in his own books. Pity he never became a Muslim!

However, at the present moment, the majority of Muslim women have no money of their own. Whether they work in fields, bring up children at home, cook all day … no one ever pays them for that … A father or brother looks after them until they are married. Then the husband looks after them. That is if they get married, happily, at all! So my question is: How will she perform Hajj? She has to have money … and, contrary to what my friend's insistence is, the husband is not the guy who has to pool in and give her the money for Hajj. He may, if he's a 'good guy', and she can 'thank' him for it. But it is not said anywhere that he must!!! (Remember, he can't say Prayers on her behalf, either!)

Also: What happens if the husband does not exist (or exists but decides to go to Hajj on his own!) …? Or he dies. Or their marriage breaks down. She has to travel with a mahram and that makes her to pay for twice that amount that her husband may have paid. Imagine a plane trip for two from Argentina or some place on the other side of the world and a non-working woman paying for it. This means that Hajj is not really possible for her. Agreed that she can skip doing it — since her faith says she can.

But why would anyone make it a 'fifth article of faith' when it is so difficult for all Muslim men … and almost impossible for Muslim women?

Here's what the Qur'an says about Hajj
Surah 2
128. Our Lord! And make us submissive unto You and of our offspring a nation submissive unto You, and show us our Manasik (all the ceremonies of pilgrimage - Hajj and Umrah, etc.), and accept our repentance. Truly, You are the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful. 
Surah 2 
158. Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of Allah. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeyeth his own impulse to good,- be sure that Allah is He Who recogniseth and knoweth.
Surah 2 
196. And complete the Hajj or 'umra in the service of Allah. But if ye are prevented (from completing it), send an offering for sacrifice, such as ye may find, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches the place of sacrifice. And if any of you is ill, or has an ailment in his scalp, (Necessitating shaving), (He should) in compensation either fast, or feed the poor, or offer sacrifice; and when ye are in peaceful conditions (again), if any one wishes to continue the 'umra on to the hajj, He must make an offering, such as he can afford, but if he cannot afford it, He should fast three days during the hajj and seven days on his return, Making ten days in all. This is for those whose household is not in (the precincts of) the Sacred Mosque. And fear Allah, and know that Allah Is strict in punishment.
197. For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, Let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj. And whatever good ye do, (be sure) Allah knoweth it. And take a provision (With you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, o ye that are wise.
198. It is no crime in you if ye seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage). Then when ye pour down from (Mount) Arafat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, ye went astray.
199. Then pass on at a quick pace from the place whence it is usual for the multitude so to do, and ask for Allah.s forgiveness. For Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
200. So when ye have accomplished your holy rites, celebrate the praises of Allah, as ye used to celebrate the praises of your fathers,- yea, with far more Heart and soul. There are men who say: "Our Lord! Give us (Thy bounties) in this world!" but they will have no portion in the Hereafter.
201. And there are men who say: "Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and defend us from the torment of the Fire!"
202. To these will be allotted what they have earned; and Allah is quick in account.
203. Celebrate the praises of Allah during the Appointed Days. But if any one hastens to leave in two days, there is no blame on him, and if any one stays on, there is no blame on him, if his aim is to do right. Then fear Allah, and know that ye will surely be gathered unto Him. 
Surah 3 
96. The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings:
97. In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures. 
Surah 5 
1. O ye who believe! fulfil (all) obligations. Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals, with the exceptions named: But animals of the chase are forbidden while ye are in the sacred precincts or in pilgrim garb: for Allah doth command according to His will and plan. 
Surah 22 
25. As to those who have rejected ((Allah)), and would keep back (men) from the Way of Allah, and from the Sacred Mosque, which We have made (open) to (all) men - equal is the dweller there and the visitor from the country - and any whose purpose therein is profanity or wrong-doing - them will We cause to taste of a most Grievous Penalty.
26. Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).
27. "And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways;
28. "That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want.
29. "Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House."
30. Such (is the Pilgrimage): whoever honours the sacred rites of Allah, for him it is good in the Sight of his Lord. Lawful to you (for food in Pilgrimage) are cattle, except those mentioned to you (as exception): but shun the abomination of idols, and shun the word that is false,-
31. Being true in faith to Allah, and never assigning partners to Him: if anyone assigns partners to Allah, is as if he had fallen from heaven and been snatched up by birds, or the wind had swooped (like a bird on its prey) and thrown him into a far- distant place.
32. Such (is his state): and whoever holds in honour the symbols of Allah, (in the sacrifice of animals), such (honour) should come truly from piety of heart.
33. In them ye have benefits for a term appointed: in the end their place of sacrifice is near the Ancient House.
34. To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of Allah over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food). But your Allah is One Allah. submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves,-
35. To those whose hearts when Allah is mentioned, are filled with fear, who show patient perseverance over their afflictions, keep up regular prayer, and spend (in charity) out of what We have bestowed upon them.
36. The sacrificial camels we have made for you as among the symbols from Allah. in them is (much) good for you: then pronounce the name of Allah over them as they line up (for sacrifice): when they are down on their sides (after slaughter), eat ye thereof, and feed such as (beg not but) live in contentment, and such as beg with due humility: thus have We made animals subject to you, that ye may be grateful.
37. It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches Allah. it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify Allah for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right. 
Surah 48 
27. Allah has fulfilled His messenger's truthful vision. You will enter the Sacred Masjid, Allah willing, perfectly secure, and you will cut your hair or shorten it (as you fulfill the pilgrimage rituals) there. You will not have any fear. Since He knew what you did not know, He has coupled this with an immediate victory.
So where does the mention of the requirement of paying all your dues, of having no money owed, of having all these things that Muslims consider essential for Hajj, come from?

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